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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Chicago: Night: 1943

Chicago: Night: 1943

Illinois Central freight cars at the South Water Street terminal, Chicago. May 1943. View full size. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano.

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My guess

There are at least two streaks here, in the same trajectory. This glow is later dusk, nautical twilight, while these streaks are stellar in origin. The bright object is Venus.

This being shot in May, the zodiac would appear to be dipping to the northwest. Given that the Chicago skyline was west of the lake, and the railway ran along the Lakeshore back then, this is facing west-northwest.

Kodachrome of that day was either ASA8 or ASA10 speed, which is incredibly slow. Also, Kodachrome has poor reciprocity failure, meaning that it requires much more time to make very long exposures like this. Even time exposures with Kodachrome 64 in 2010 is pretty slow.

(Just to be sure, I pulled up's interactive night sky viewer, plugged in May 15, 1943, 8:50p CST, Chicago, and Venus is indeed in the western sky; the dimmer star is probably Theta Aurigae).

Nerd time over.

Line in upper left?

What is that? Were commercial planes that common in 1943 like tsturm suggested?

[Aircraft running light? Whether military, civilian or interplanetary, it's hard to say. - Dave]

Night photo

Great composition of light & dark, Jack sure knew how to take great photos. It looks like the boxcar is lit up by an auto's headlights.

[Jack used a floodlight. - Dave]

Nights were darker back then

It's interesting to compare this photo with the nighttime scene in any modern city - nowadays there are so many lights in the office buildings, while back then the offices were pitch black at night.

It seems there is a lit plane flying past the tower on the left...

[This was during World War II. There were blackout regulations in a lot of big cities, though mostly on the East Coast. - Dave]

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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